Nain man found not guilty of sexual assault
A 28-year-old Nain man has been cleared of all charges in a sexual assault that allegedly occurred in January, 2017.
In a 10-page decision issued July 11, Justice Frances Knickle of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador said he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Julius Pijogge had committed either a common assault or sexual assault against the alleged victim, who cannot be named due to a publication ban.
The justice prefaced his analysis of the case by citing the 2000 Supreme Court of Canada precedent in The Queen v. Robert Dennis Starr regarding the standard of proof.
“The standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is closer to absolute certainty than it is to the balance of probabilities,” Knickle wrote. “That is, it is not enough to be satisfied that the Accused “probably” or “more likely than not” committed the offences.”
Knickle based the acquittal on inconsistencies in the complainant’s testimony. The justice noted that her narrative of the alleged events changed not only between the preliminary hearing and trial on May 11, but even during trial between direct examination by the Crown and cross-examination by the defence.
Inconsistencies aside, the crux of her story was that she and the accused had ended up going drinking at her apartment where he grabbed her, turned her around, pushed her up against the kitchen counter and attempted to pull down her pants. She fought him off, she said, was angry at him and eventually managed to kick him out.
For his part, Pijogge testified they had been drinking at her apartment, but that her anger was over him refusing to get her more beer. He initially said he had not touched her at all, but on cross-examination admitted they “did get close, and almost started kissing” according to Knickle.
“I do not believe his evidence,” Knickle wrote. “However, his explanation that the Complainant became upset when he could or would not give her any more beer is plausible.”
Even though Knickle did not believe Pijogge’s testimony, the justice said the law is clear that: “…even if the Accused’s evidence is not believed, if the Court is left with a reasonable doubt by the evidence, then the Accused must be acquitted.”
Ultimately the justice said he was “left with a reasonable doubt as to what exactly happened between the two individuals.”
He found Pijogge not guilty on the sexual assault and a related charge of breaching a probation order.